Flaming Lips fans
take note. This album shares more than a
passing resemblance to that far more visible band. The singer is suspiciously similar-sounding
and the diverse instrumentation and whimsical production remind one of the
Lips’ middle-era albums. Orchestral pop
is easy to get wrong, but when it’s gotten right it can really set itself
apart. It is, however, a risky
proposition and can come off as melodramatic or poseur-esque in the wrong flavors
and proportions. The Starlight Mints
fortunately do not fall into that particular trap. From beginning to start, this album is light,
catchy pop, faultlessly crafted and refreshingly diverse.
The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of begins with ”Submarine #3," one of my favorite songs to put on mix cds because it is short, catchy, and almost nobody has ever heard it (unfortunately). Tipping the stopwatch at just 2 minutes, this song is kinetic, quirky, and eminently singable. It wastes no time and changes up rapidly, but remains incredibly easy to like and catchy the whole way through. Next highlight is “The Bandit,” another shorty but another goody – a steady strumming and unsteady beat underlie a whistle lead, backed up by whatever is necessary. Here the lyrics are a little easier to catch, and it confirms your earlier impressions that they are totally insane, like Bush insane. “Valerie Flames” seems to reprise the feel of “The Bandit,” minus the whistling, making me think there might be a concept lurking behind the indecipherable lyrics. There is a lot of channel isolation – that is, guitars are kept in one or the other stereo channel, and there is a nice sort of dueling feel to this song and the others. “Margarita” is the last track and I get the feeling I’ve heard it before this album, at least the leading guitar part – though that may be because it has tapped into some primal riff-prototype in my mind. The chameleonic nature of the album continues in spades here as the song switches between bizarre, bouncy guitar, harp, recorder, acoustic, flanged guitar, and a dozen other things before trailing off. It’s a fitting end to such a strange and charming album, but one that for me comes too soon. I would have loved a big, sprawling epic – and I’m sure they’re capable of making a good one, too. In the end, you’ll be jonesing to put half the tracks on mixtapes just so you can be the guy who gave them that one song.